https://www.duolingo.com/Arkadios200

What is the difference between the particles は and が?

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I know, I know, は is the topic particle and が is the subject particle, but what exactly is the difference, semantically, between the topic and the subject?

8/30/2017, 11:05:57 PM

5 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Fayke
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An easy way to understand it is to insert "as for A" or "regarding A" when 「Aは」 is used and "it is B that" when 「Bが」 is used.
A phrase like the one mentioned in one of the other posts 私はコーヒーが好きです。becomes: As for me, it is coffee that is likable. Of course that would be a really bad translation, but it is a good way to get the meaning and then find the best equivalent in English to express the same idea, in this case: I like coffee.

8/31/2017, 8:59:01 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MGJScully
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It's best not to stick to the subject and top particle idea as it will become confusing. In general, both will denote the subject of the sentence in different instances. It's all about context and the introduction of idea to the conversation.

A sentence can have more than one は but only one が.

You will use が every time you introduce a new subject idea into a conversation. If the subject then remains the same, you would switch to は. If the subject is familiar to both speaker and listener, feel free to stick with は.

The topic vs subject rule is awkward when considering constructions like: 私はコーヒーが好きです。"I like coffee." since the actual subject of the sentence is "I" and the object coffee, so the rule doesn't actually make sense. But if you think about it, the listener knows you, so the が is free to move to the real reason for the sentence, the coffee.

I hope that helps.

Edit: Here is a very good and simple explanation with examples: http://www.learn-japanese-adventure.com/japanese-particles-wa-ga.html

8/31/2017, 1:55:59 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/jmenel
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The topic vs. subject rule only doesn't make sense for 私はコーヒーが好きです if you translate it as "I like coffee". A closer translation would be "Speaking of me, coffee is likable." Coffee is the subject. The action it is performing is being likable.

8/31/2017, 2:54:53 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MGJScully
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Well said, and a very good point.

It's one of the ways in which Japanese grammatical fluidity is difficult for English learners. If we translate everything literally into English, we end up sounding like Yoda :)

Edit: Although to point it out: in this case "I" is the subject and "coffee" is the object.

8/31/2017, 3:22:48 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/Arkadios200
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Besides, 好き is an adjective in Japanese, so there wouldn't be an object anyway (with the possible exception that 好き itself could be an "object," though that would be more like a predicate adjective). Also, 私はコーヒーが大好きですよ。(No Google Translate, so I hope I used よ correctly.)

9/1/2017, 1:07:29 PM
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